MILITARY REMINISCENCES OF THE CIVIL WAR
BY JACOB DOLSON COX, A.M., LL.D.
Formerly Major-General commanding Twenty-Third Army Corps_
NOVEMBER 1863-JUNE 1865
Sherman's earlier views of the
slavery question--Opinions in 1864--War rights vs. statesmanship--Correspondence with
Savannah--Letter to General Robert Anderson--Conference with
City Point--First effect of the
assassination of the President--Situation on the Confederate side--Davis at Danville--Cut off from Lee--Goes to Greensborough--Calls Johnston to conference--Lee's surrender--The Greensborough meeting--Approach of
Stoneman's cavalry raid--Vance's deputation to Sherman--Davis orders their arrest--Vance asserts his loyalty--Attempts to concentrate Confederate forces on the Greensborough-Charlotte line--Cabinet meeting--Overthrow of the Confederacy acknowledged--Davis still hopeful--Yields to the cabinet--Dictates Johnston's letter to Sherman--Sherman's reply--Meeting arranged--Sherman sends preliminary correspondence to Washington--The Durham meeting--The negotiations--Two points of difficulty--Second day's session--Johnston's power to promise the disbanding of the civil government--The terms agreed upon--Transmittal letters--Assembling the Virginia legislature--Sherman's wish to make explicit declaration of the end of slavery--The assassination affecting public sentiment--Sherman's personal faith in Johnston--He sees the need of modifying the terms--Grant's arrival.
To understand Sherman's negotiations with Johnston, we must recall the general's attitude toward the rebellious States and his views on the subject of slavery. Originally a conservative Whig in politics, deprecating the anti-slavery agitation, as early as 1856 he had written to his brother, "Unless people both North and South learn more moderation, we'll 'see sights' in the way of civil war. Of course the North have the strength and must prevail, though the people of the South could and would be desperate enough." [Footnote: Sherman Letters, p. 63.] In 1859 he was still urging concessions instead of insisting on the absolute right, saying, "Each State has a perfect right to have its own local policy, and a majority in Congress has an absolute right to govern the whole country; but the North, being so strong in every sense of the term, can well afford to be generous, even to making reasonable concessions to the weakness and prejudices of the South." [Footnote: Sherman Letters, p. 77.] He returned to the same thought in 1860, saying, "So certain and inevitable is it that the physical and political power of this nation must pass into the hands of the free States, that I think you all can well afford to take things easy, bear the buffets of a sinking dynasty, and even smile at their impotent threats." [Footnote: _Id._, p. 83.]
The world is familiar with the ringing words with which he threw away his livelihood and turned from every attractive outlook in life, when, Secession having actually come, he said to the governor of Louisiana, "On no earthly account will I do any act or think any thought hostile to or in defiance of the United States." [Footnote: _Id._, p. 106.] But he was also one of the clearest-sighted in seeing that when slavery had appealed to the sword it would perish by the sword. In January, 1864, he expressed it tersely: "The South has made the interests of slavery the issue of the war. If they lose the war, they lose slavery." [Footnote: _Id._, p. 222.] At the end of the same month he said, "Three years ago, by a little reflection and patience, they could have had a hundred years of peace and prosperity; but they preferred war. Last year they could have saved their slaves, but now it is too late,--all the powers of earth cannot restore to them their slaves any more than their dead grandfathers." [Footnote: Official Records, vol, xxxii. pt. ii. p. 280.] And in the same letter, written to a subordinate with express authority to make it known to the Southern people within our lines, he said of certain administrative regulations: "These are well-established principles of war, and the people of the South, having appealed to war, are barred from appealing for protection to our Constitution, which they have practically and publicly defied. They have appealed to war, and must abide _its_ rules and laws." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxii. pt ii. p. 279.]
Two years later Thaddeus Stevens, as radical leader in Congress, enounced the same doctrine in no more trenchant terms. Sherman was explicit in regard to its scope, but he differed from Stevens in the extent to which he would go, as a matter of sound policy and statesmanship, in applying the possible penalties of war when submission was made. It is clear that he insisted there could be no resurrection for slavery, and that the freedmen must be protected in life, liberty, and property, with a true equality before the law in this protection; but he held that they were as yet unfit for political participation in the government, much less for the assumption of political rule in the Southern States.
In a friendly letter which
General Halleck wrote to Sherman immediately after the
capture of Savannah, he said with a freedom that long intimacy permitted: "Whilst almost every one is praising your great march through Georgia and the
capture of Savannah, there is a certain class, having now great influence with the President and very probably anticipating still more on a change of
cabinet, who are decidedly disposed to make a point against you--I mean in regard to 'Inevitable Sambo.' They say that you have manifested an almost _criminal_ dislike to the negro, and that you are not willing to carry out the wishes of the government in regard to him, but repulse him with contempt." [Footnote: _Id_., vol. xliv. p. 836.] In short, it was said that his march through Georgia might have been made the means of a general exodus of the slaves, and ought to have been.
Sherman made a humorous reply, saying he allowed thousands of negroes to accompany his march, and set no limit but the necessities of his military operations. "If it be insisted," he said, "that I shall so conduct my operations that the negro alone is consulted, of course I will be defeated, and then where will be Sambo? Don't military success imply the safety of Sambo, and _vice versa_?... They gather round me in crowds, and I can't find out whether I am Moses or Aaron or which of the prophets. . . . The South deserves all she has got for her injustice to the negro, but that is no reason why we should go to the other extreme. I do and will do the best I can for negroes, and feel sure that the problem is solving itself slowly and naturally. It needs nothing more than our fostering care." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. ii. p. 36.]
The Secretary of War was broadly hinted at in
Halleck's letter, but when Mr. Stanton visited
Sherman at Savannah, the latter understood that his mind was disabused of any unfavorable impressions he may have had. Mr. Stanton had assembled a score of the leading colored preachers as the most intelligent representatives of their race, and examined them by written questions respecting their hopes and desires, their attitude in regard to military service, and in regard to living among the whites or separately. He learned that they generally preferred to try life in a separate community of their own, and that they were strongly opposed to the methods by which State agents were trying to enlist them as substitutes for men drafted in the Northern States. He even went so far as to ask these men whether they found Sherman friendly to the colored people's rights and interests or otherwise! The answer was that they had confidence in the general, and thought their concerns could not be in better hands. Some of them had called upon him on his arrival, and now said that they did not think he could have received Mr. Stanton with more courtesy than he showed to them. [Footnote: _Id._, p. 41.] Sherman's order relating to the allotment of sea-island lands to the freedmen for cultivation, and to the methods of procuring their enlistment as soldiers [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. ii. p. 60.] was drafted while Mr. Stanton was with him, and he affirms that every paragraph had the Secretary's approval. [Footnote: Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 250.]
In his feelings toward the men chiefly responsible for secession and the war, Sherman had never measured his words when expressing his condemnation and wrath. In a letter to General Robert Anderson, written only a few days before meeting Johnston in negotiation, he had spoken with deepest feeling of his satisfaction that Anderson was to raise again the flag at Fort Sumter on April 14th (the fatal day on which also Lincoln died), saying he was "glad that it falls to the lot of one so pure and noble to represent our country in a drama so solemn, so majestic, and so just." To him it looked like "a retribution decreed by Heaven itself." Reminded by this thought of those who had caused this horrid war, he exclaimed: "But the end is not yet. The brain that first conceived the thought must burst in anguish, the heart that pulsated with hellish joy must cease to beat, the hand that pulled the first laniard must be palsied, before the wicked act begun in Charleston on the 13th of April,
1861, is avenged. But 'mine, not thine, is vengeance,' saith the Lord, and we poor sinners must let him work out the drama to its close." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 107.] Such was the man who went to meet General Johnston on the 17th of April; and in considering what he then did, we must take into the account the principles, the convictions, and the feelings which were part of his very nature.
Still further, we must remember that he had, less than three weeks before, a personal conference with the President at City Point, and had obtained from him personally the views he held with regard to the terms he was prepared to grant to the several rebel States as well as to the armies which might surrender, and the method by which he expected to obtain an acknowledgment of submission from some legally constituted authority, without dealing in any way with the Confederate civil government.
General Sherman is conclusive authority as to what occurred at a conference which was in the nature of instructions to him from the Commander-in-Chief; and the more carefully we examine contemporaneous records, the stronger becomes the conviction that he has accurately reported what occurred at that meeting.
"Mr. Lincoln was full and frank in his conversation," says Sherman, "assuring me that in his mind he was all ready for the civil reorganization of affairs at the South as soon as the war was over; and he distinctly authorized me to assure Governor Vance and the people of North Carolina that as soon as the rebel armies laid down their arms and resumed their civil pursuits, they would at once be guaranteed all their rights as citizens of a common country; and that to avoid anarchy, the State governments then in existence, with their civil functionaries, would be recognized by him as the government _de facto_ till Congress could provide others." [Footnote: Sherman's Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 327.]
When the general met Mr. Graham and others, he was aware that General Weitzel at Richmond had authorized the Virginia State government to assemble, Mr. Lincoln being on the ground. The views expressed in the famous interview at City Point had taken practical shape. In correspondence with Johnston while they were awaiting action on the first convention, Sherman referred to Weitzel's action as a reason for confidence that there would be "no trouble on the score of recognizing existing State governments." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 266.]
With the burden of the terrible news of
Lincoln's assassination, Sherman went up to Durham Station to meet the Confederate general on the 17th of April. His grief was mingled with gloomy thoughts of the future, for it was natural that he as well as the authorities at Washington should at first think of the great crime as part of a system of desperate men to destroy both the civil and the military leaders of the country, and to disperse the armies into bands of merciless guerillas who would try the effect of anarchy now that civilized military operations had failed. We did injustice to the South in thinking so, but it was inevitable that such should be the first impression. As soon as we mingled a little with the leading soldiers and statesmen of the South we learned better, and the period of such apprehensions was a brief one, though terrible while it lasted.
But we must here consider what were the motives and purposes which, on his part, Johnston represented, when he came from Greensborough to meet his great opponent. To understand these we must trace rapidly the course of events within his military lines. When Petersburg was taken and Richmond evacuated, Mr. Davis with the members of his cabinet went to Danville, where he remained for a few days, protected by a small force under General H. H. Walker. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. pp. 741, 750.]
Beauregard was at Greensborough, collecting detachments to resist an expedition which
General Stoneman was leading through the mountains from Tennessee. [Footnote: _Id._, p. 751.] Johnston was at Smithfield with the main body of his forces, watching our army at Goldsborough and preparing to retreat toward Lee as soon as the latter might escape from Grant and give a rendezvous at Danville or Greensborough. The retreat from Petersburg made a union east of Danville probably impracticable. [Footnote: _Id._, pp. 682, 737.]
Grant's persistent and vigorous pursuit soon turned Lee away from the Danville road at Burkesville, pushed him toward Lynchburg, and destroyed all hope of union with Johnston. Davis had no direct communication with Lee after reaching Danville, and his position there being unsafe, after Grant had occupied Burkesville, he went to Greensborough. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. pp. 750, 787.] From Danville, on the 10th, he telegraphed Johnston that he had a report of the surrender of Lee, which there was little room to doubt. He also asked Johnston to meet him at Greensborough to confer as to future action. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 777.] The dispatch was, by some accident, prevented from reaching Johnston on the 10th, and Davis repeated it on the 11th, so that the news reached the Confederate headquarters only a day before we got it, on our march from Smithfield. On the same day (11th) Davis informed Governor Vance of the disaster, and suggested a meeting with him also. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 787.] He also forwarded to Johnston the suggestion of
Beauregard (which he approved), that all the Confederate forces north of Augusta should concentrate at Salisbury.
The best evidence that Vance regarded the cause of the Confederacy as lost is found in his resolve to send a deputation to meet Sherman without waiting to confer with Davis. Johnston issued on the 11th his orders for the continued march of his army westward from Raleigh along the railroad, [Footnote: _Id_., p. 789.] and himself proceeded to Greensborough by train, to have the appointed conference. Whilst Davis and he were together on the 12th, Stoneman's cavalry, which had been in the vicinity the day before and had made a break in the Danville road, was heard of at Shallow Ford, on the Yadkin, about thirty miles west. Part of the troops at Greensborough were at once sent to Salisbury, which was about the same distance from the Yadkin ford. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 791.] At the same time came a cipher dispatch from Colonel Anderson of Johnston's staff, whom the latter had left at Raleigh, saying that Governor Vance was sending Messrs. Graham and Swain to meet Sherman, presumably by permission of
Hardee, who was senior officer in Johnston's absence. Colonel Anderson had taken the responsibility of asking
Gen. Hampton not to let them pass his cavalry outposts. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 791.] By Davis's direction, Johnston at once telegraphed Hardee to arrest the delegation and to permit no intercourse with us except under proper military flag of truce. [Footnote: _Ibid._] Vance was of course informed by Hardee, and replied that he intended nothing subversive of Davis's prerogative or without consulting him. He also said that Johnston was aware of his purpose. [Footnote: _Id._, p. 792.] In saying further, however, that the initiative had been on Sherman's part, he was dissembling. [Footnote: See the letters, _Id._, p. 178.] The difficulty put in the way of his representatives in getting beyond the Confederate lines is thus accounted for, as well as his failure to remain in Raleigh on our arrival. Davis found it politic to accept the explanation, [Footnote: _Id._, p. 792.] but we may safely assume that the matter was discussed between him and Johnston, and that it led to its discussion with his cabinet also; for Johnston remained with him till the 14th, leaving to Hardee the direction of the army on the march, which was ordered to be pressed towards Greensborough. [Footnote: _Id._, pp. 796, 797.] The troops at Danville were called to the same rendezvous, and General Echols, with those in West Virginia, was ordered to make his way through the mountains to the northwestern part of South Carolina. [Footnote: _Id._, pp. 795, 796.]
In a formal conference with his advisers on the 13th (Thursday), all of the cabinet officers except Benjamin declared themselves of Johnston's and Beauregard's opinion, that a further prosecution of the war was hopeless; that the Southern Confederacy was in fact overthrown, and that the wise thing to do was to make at once the best terms possible. [Footnote: Johnston's Narrative, pp. 397-400.] Davis argued that the crisis might rouse the Southern people to new and desperate efforts, and that overtures for peace on the basis of submission were premature. The general opinion, however, was so strong against him that he reluctantly yielded, and, to make sure that he should not be committed further than he meant, he himself dictated, and Mr. Mallory, the Secretary of the Navy, wrote, the letter to Sherman, signed by Johnston, asking for an armistice between all the armies, if
General Grant would consent, "the object being to permit the civil authorities to enter into the needful arrangements to terminate the existing war." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 206.] The form of each sentence of the letter is significant, in view of its authorship, but most so is the plain meaning of that just quoted, to make a complete surrender upon such terms as the National government should dictate. In like manner the opening sentence, "The results of the recent campaign in Virginia have changed the relative military condition of the belligerents," was a confession in diplomatic form of final defeat. Before sending the letter to Sherman, Johnston copied it with his own hand, in order, no doubt, to have a duplicate for his own protection, as well as to preserve secrecy. [Footnote: The only difference is that in his copy he put the date of the 13th at its head (the true date), whilst the original which he says he sent to Sherman (Narr., p. 400) was dated the 14th, when it would be sent from his outposts; a bit of forethought on Mr. Davis's part, which guarded against Sherman's suspicion that it had been prepared at a distance and had travelled more than a day's journey. Both of the duplicates are in the war archives, that written by Mr. Mallory having the indorsement in Sherman's own hand of its receipt on the 14th. (Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 206, note.) In the Records Sherman's indorsement of the receipt of Johnston's dispatch is "12 night." This seems to be a clerical error, and should be "noon." (See _Id_., pp. 209, 215, 216, and Sherman's Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 346.) Mr. Davis's account is not inconsistent with Johnston's, which he had seen. (Rise and Fall, vol. ii. pp. 681, 684.)]
Sherman lost not a moment in answering, 1st, that he had power and was willing to arrange a suspension of hostilities between the armies under their respective commands, indicating a halt on both sides on the 15th; 2d, that he offered as a basis the terms given Lee at Appomattox: 3d, interpreting Johnston's reference to "other armies" which he desired the truce to include as referring to Stoneman (whom we had heard of in Raleigh as burning railway bridges on both sides of Greensborough [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 197.]), he said that Stoneman was under his command, and that he would obtain from Grant a suspension of other movements from Virginia. [Footnote: _Id._, p. 207.] All this was strictly within the limits of Sherman's military authority and discretion.
The 15th of April (Saturday) was a day of pouring rain, making the roads almost impassable for wagons, as they were already cut up by the retreating army and by our advance. Sherman expected a reply from Johnston early, for he had directed Kilpatrick on Friday afternoon to send his answer at once to the Confederate lines. [Footnote: _Id._, p. 215.] He was annoyed at the delay, and sent up Major McCoy of his staff to Morrisville on the railway, where Kilpatrick's headquarters were, taking with him a telegraph operator to open an office there. But Kilpatrick had gone to his own outposts toward Hillsborough, and his staff seem to have been in no hurry to forward Sherman's letter, so that it was delivered to Hampton at sundown of the 15th instead of the 14th. [Footnote: _Id._, p. 222, 233, 234.] A locomotive engine was sent to McCoy on Sunday (16th), and with it he went on to Durham, taking his telegrapher along. Some
torpedoes had been found on the road below, and McCoy diminished the risk from any others, by putting some empty cars ahead of the locomotive to explode them if there should be any. He got through safely, however, found Kilpatrick at Durham, opened telegraphic communication with headquarters at Raleigh, was authorized to read and transmit by the wire Johnston's reply, and so was able before night to give his impatiently waiting chief the Confederate general's proposal to meet in conference between the lines next morning, and to return Sherman's consent. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. pp. 229-231.]
Meanwhile Kilpatrick had been sending dispatches saying he did not believe Johnston could be trusted, that his whole army was marching on, that the delay was a ruse to gain time, and that no confidence could be placed "in the word of a rebel, no matter what may be his position. He is but a traitor at best." [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 224, 233.] Sherman answered: "I have faith in General Johnston's personal sincerity, and do not believe he would use a subterfuge to cover his movements. He could not stop the movement of his troops till he got my letter, which I hear was delayed all day yesterday by your adjutants' not sending it forward." His faith in Johnston's honorable dealing was justified, but the delay had brought the Confederate infantry to the neighborhood of Greensborough. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 234. Also Johnston's Narrative, p. 401.]
On the 15th Sherman had sent both to Grant and to the Secretary of War copies of Johnston's overture and his own answer. He added that he should "be careful not to complicate any points of civil policy;" that he had invited Governor Vance to return to Raleigh with the civil officers of the State, and that ex-Governor Graham, Messrs. Badger, Moore, Holden, and others all agreed "that the war is over and that the States of the South must resume their allegiance, subject to the Constitution and laws of Congress, and that the military power of the South must submit to the National arms. This great fact once admitted," he said, "all the details are easy of arrangement." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 221.] He directed this to be sent by a swift steamer to
Fort Monroe and from there by telegraph to Washington. As this dispatch was sent part of the way by telegraph, it should have reached Washington more than three days ahead of the convention signed on the 18th and carried to the capital by Major Hitchcock, who left Raleigh in the night of that day:[Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 246.] but no answer seems to have been made to it, unless it be in a dispatch of Grant on the 20th in which he directed the movement of
Slocum's armies to City Point in case Johnston surrendered. [Footnote: _Id._, p. 257.]
On Monday (April 17th), with the burden of the knowledge of
Lincoln's assassination on his mind, Sherman went up to Durham by rail, accompanied by a few officers. There he met General Kilpatrick, who furnished a cavalry company as an escort, and led-horses to mount the party. [Footnote: _Id._, pp. 234, 235.] The bearer of the flag of truce and a trumpeter were in advance, followed by part of the escort, the general and his officers came next, the little cavalcade closing with the rest of the escort in due order. They rode about five miles on the Hillsborough road, when they met General Wade Hampton advancing with a flag from the other side. The house of a Mr. Bennett, near by, was made the place of conference. When Sherman and Johnston were alone, the dispatch announcing
Mr. Lincoln's murder was shown the Confederate, and as he read it, Sherman tells us, beads of perspiration stood out on his forehead, his face showed the horror and distress he felt, and he denounced the act as a disgrace to the age. [Footnote: Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 349,] Both realized the danger that terrible results would follow if hostilities should be resumed, and both were impelled to yield whatever seemed possible to bring the war to an immediate end. In this praiseworthy spirit their discussion was carried on, Johnston saying that "the greatest possible calamity to the South had happened." [Footnote: Johnston's Narrative, p. 402.]
Johnston's first point was that his proposal of the 14th had been that the civil authorities should negotiate as to the terms of peace, while the armistice should continue. Sherman could not deal with the Confederate civil government or recognize it. It could only dissolve and vanish when the separate states should make their submission, and these were the only governments _de facto_ with whom dealings could be had. Postponing this matter, they proceeded to the practical one,--the terms that could be assured to the armies of the South and to the States.
Here they found themselves not far apart. As to the troops, nothing more liberal could be asked than the terms already given to Lee. Sherman knew of Mr. Lincoln's willingness that the State governments should continue to act, if they began by declaring the Confederacy dissolved by defeat, and the authority of the United States recognized and acknowledged. He had no knowledge of any change in the policy of the government in this respect, and what he had said to Governor Vance's delegation was satisfactory to both negotiators.
But how as to amnesty? Here Sherman was also able to give Lincoln's own words, declaring his desire that the people in general should be assured of all their rights of life, liberty, and property, and the political rights of citizens of a common country on their complete submission. Lincoln wanted no more lives sacrificed, and would use his power to make amnesty complete. He could not control the legislative or the judicial department of the government, but he spoke for himself as executive. An agreement was easy here also.
What, then, as to slavery? Sherman regarded it utterly dead in the regions occupied by the Confederates at the time of the Emancipation Proclamation (Jan. 1, 1863), and Johnston frankly admitted that surrender in view of the whole situation acknowledged the end of the system which had been the great stake in the war. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 243.]
The Thirteenth Amendment
of the Constitution, abolishing slavery, had then been accepted by twenty States, Arkansas did so three days later, and the six Northern States which had been delayed in action upon it were as certain to ratify as that a little time should roll round. [Footnote: Rickey's Constitution, p. 43.] It was therefore no figure of speech to say that slavery was dead: Sherman, Johnston, and Breckinridge knew it to be true. But Johnston urged that to secure the prompt and peaceful acquiescence of the whole South, it was undesirable to force upon them irritating acknowledgments even of what they tacitly admitted to themselves was true; further, that the subject was not included in the scope of a military convention. If slavery was in fact abolished by Mr. Lincoln's proclamation, it was for Congress and the courts so to declare it, and two soldiers arranging the surrender had no call to assert all the legal consequences which would flow from the act. Sherman yielded to this argument, not from any doubt as to the fact of freedom, but from a certainty of it so complete that he would not prolong dispute to obtain a formal assent to it. He was the more ready to do so as he insisted that he acted simply as the representative of the Executive as Commander-in-Chief, and neither could nor would promise immunity from prosecutions under indictments or confiscation-laws. He said also that whilst he agreed with
Mr. Lincoln in hoping no executions or long imprisonments would occur, he advised the leading men in the Confederate Government to get out of the country.
As to the disposal of the arms in the hands of the Confederate soldiers from North Carolina to Texas, both knew that little of practical moment depended on the form of the agreement. So many arms were thrown away, so many were concealed by soldiers who loved the weapons they had carried, that even in our own ranks no satisfactory collection of them could be made. But a real and present apprehension with both officers was the scattering of armed men in guerilla bands. If the law-abiding were disarmed and those who scattered and refused to give up their weapons were at large, how could the States preserve the peace? To this point Sherman said he attached most importance. This was not an afterthought when defending his action; he wrote it to Grant in the letter transmitting the terms when they were made. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 243.] The same thought was forced home on the Confederates by their experience at the time. Before the negotiations were finally concluded, bands of paroled men from Lee's army, and stragglers were able to stop trains on the railroad on which Johnston's army was dependent for supplies, and it would have been intolerable to leave the country at the mercy of that class. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 818, 819.] To keep the troops of each State under discipline till they deposited the arms at State capitals, where United States garrisons would be, and where the final disposal of them would be "subject to the future action of Congress," seemed prudent and safe; and this was agreed to. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 243, 244.]
In the first day's conference it seemed clear that the generals could easily agree upon all they thought essential, except the exclusion of Mr. Davis and his chief civil officers from any part in the negotiations and making the terms of amnesty general. An adjournment to Tuesday was had to give Johnston time to consult with General Breckinridge, the Secretary of War, and for Sherman to reflect further on the amnesty question. [Footnote: Sherman's Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 350; Johnston's Narrative, p. 404.] As soon as the latter reached Raleigh, he dispatched to Grant, through a staff officer at New Berne, a brief report of the "full and frank interchange of opinions" with Johnston. "He evidently seeks to make terms for
Jeff. Davis and his cabinet," he said. The adjournment was mentioned with its reason; and to negative any thought that he might neglect military advantages by the delay, he said, "We lose nothing in time, as by agreement both armies stand still, and the roads are drying up, so that if I am forced to pursue, we will be able to make better speed. There is great danger that the Confederate armies will dissolve and fill the whole land with robbers and assassins, and I think this is one of the difficulties that Johnston labors under. The assassination of Mr. Lincoln shows one of the elements in the rebel army which will be almost as difficult to deal with as the main armies." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 237.]
When the two generals met again on Tuesday, General Breckinridge was with Johnston's party, and the latter requested that he might take part in the conference; but Sherman adhered to his position that he would deal only with the military officers and objected to Breckinridge as Secretary of War. Johnston suggested that he might be present simply as a general officer, but adding that his personal relations to Mr. Davis would greatly aid in securing final approval of anything to which he assented. With this understanding he was allowed to be present. Mr. Reagan, Postmaster-General, had also come with Breckinridge to General Hampton's headquarters, but did not proceed further. He was busy there, Johnston tells us, in throwing into form the terms which the general thought were fairly included in the conversational comparison of views on the previous day, with the exception of the amnesty, which was made general without exceptions. [Footnote: Johnston's Narrative, p. 404.] This must, of course, have been from notes written at Johnston's dictation.
Sherman was now informed that the Confederate general had authority to negotiate a military convention for the surrender of all the Confederate armies, and that if the terms could be agreed upon, the Davis government would disband, like the armies, and use the influence of its members to secure the submission of all the several States. Johnston, on his part, would be content with the conclusions informally reached on Monday, except that he wanted the principle inserted of amnesty without exceptions. Mr. Reagan's draft was produced and read. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 806.] It contained a preamble stating motives for the action proposed, and professed to be no more than a basis for further negotiation. A note appended to it referred to several things necessary to a conclusion of the business which might be subsequently added. The preamble, as well as this note, was no proper part of the terms, and Sherman entirely objected to any preamble of the kind, wishing to include only the things necessary to an agreement. He therefore took his pen, and then and there wrote off rapidly his own expression of the points he had intended to agree to, but explicitly as a "memorandum or basis" for submission to their principals.
They were, _First_, the continuance of the armistice, terminable on short notice; _Second_, the disbanding of all the Confederate armies under parol and deposit of their arms subject to the control of the National government; _Third_, recognition by the Executive of existing State governments; _Fourth_, re-establishment of Federal Courts; _Fifth_, guaranty for the future of general rights of person, property, and political rights "so far as the Executive can;" _Sixth_, freedom for the people from disturbance on account of the past, by "the Executive authority of the government;" the _seventh_ item was a general resume of results aimed at. [Footnote: _Id_., p 243.] The most striking difference between this statement and that which Mr. Reagan had drawn, besides the omission of the preamble, was the express limitation of the proposed action by the powers of the National executive, with neither promise nor suggestion as to what the courts or Congress might or might not do.
In transmitting the memorandum through General Grant, Sherman wrote that the point to which he attached most importance was "that the dispersion and disbandment of those armies is done in such a manner as to prevent their breaking up into guerilla bands," whilst there was no restriction on our right to military occupation. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 243.] As to slavery, he said, "Both generals Johnston and Breckinridge admitted that slavery was dead, and I could not insist on embracing it in such a paper, because it can be made with the States in detail." [Footnote: _Ibid._] He also referred to the financial question, and the necessity of stopping war expenditures and getting the officers and men of the army home to work. Writing to Halleck as chief of staff at the same time, he referred to the same topics, expressed his belief, from all he saw and heard, that "even Mr. Davis was not privy to the diabolical plot" of assassination, but that it was "the emanation of a set of young men of the South who are very devils." [Footnote: _Id._, p. 245.] He told
Halleck that Johnston informed him that Stoneman's cavalry had been at Salisbury, but was then near Statesville, which was on the road back to Tennessee, about forty miles west of Salisbury and double that distance west of Greensborough.
A week now intervened, in which the important papers were journeying to Washington and the orders of the government coming back. On the 20th Sherman had occasion to inform Johnston of steps he had taken to enforce the details of the truce, and as evidence that he had not mistaken Mr. Lincoln's views in regard to the State governments, he enclosed a late paper showing that "in Virginia the State authorities are acknowledged and invited to resume their lawful functions." [Footnote: _Id._, p. 257.] The convention seemed therefore in harmony with the course actually pursued by the administration at Washington, and the negotiators were justified in feeling reassured.
Another day passed, and as other incidents in the relations of the armies needed to be communicated to Johnston, Sherman recurred again to the encouraging feature of the leave to assemble the Virginia legislature, but added some reflections on points which he thought might require more explicit treatment than they had given, and he suggested Johnston's conference with the best Southern men, so that he might be ready to act without delay if modifications should be required in the final convention. "It may be," he said, "that the lawyers will want us to define more minutely what is meant by the guaranty of rights of person and property. It may be construed into a compact for us to undo the past as to the rights of slaves, and 'leases of plantations' on the Mississippi, of 'vacant and abandoned' plantations. I wish you would talk to the best men you have on these points, and if possible, let us, in the final convention, make these points so clear as to leave no room for angry controversy. I believe if the South would simply and publicly declare what we all feel, that slavery is dead, that you would inaugurate an era of peace and prosperity that would soon efface the ravages of the past four years of war. Negroes would remain in the South and afford you abundance of cheap labor, which otherwise will be driven away, and it will save the country the senseless discussions which have kept us all in hot water for fifty years. Although, strictly speaking, this is no subject of a military convention, yet I am honestly convinced that our simple declaration of a result will be accepted as good law everywhere. Of course I have not a single word from Washington on this or any other point of our agreement, but I know the effect of such a step by us will be universally accepted." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 266.]
On the same day (21st), he was replying to a letter from an acquaintance of former days residing at
Wilmington. In this reply he spoke out more vigorously his own sentiments: "The idea of war to perpetuate slavery in the year 1861 was an insult to the intelligence of the age." War being begun by the South, "it was absurd to suppose we were bound to respect that kind of property or any kind of property. . . . The result is nearly accomplished, and is what you might have foreseen." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 271.]
On the 23d he sent a bundle of newspapers to Johnston and Hardee, giving the developments of the assassination plot and the hopes that the Sewards would recover. In the unofficial note accompanying them, he said: "The feeling North on this subject is more intense than anything that ever occurred before. General Ord at Richmond has recalled the permission given for the Virginia legislature, and I fear much the assassination of the President will give a bias to the popular mind which, in connection with the desire of our politicians, may thwart our purpose of recognizing 'existing local governments.' But it does seem to me there must be good sense enough left on this continent to give order and shape to the now disjointed elements of government. I believe this assassination of Mr. Lincoln will do the cause of the South more harm than any event of the war, both at home and abroad, and I doubt if the Confederate military authorities had any more complicity with it than I had. I am thus frank with you, and have asserted as much to the War Department. But I dare not say as much for Mr. Davis or some of the civil functionaries, for it seems the plot was fixed for March 4, but delayed awaiting some instructions from Richmond." [Footnote: _Id._, p. 287.]
The whole tenor of this letter speaks most clearly the faith which personal intercourse with Johnston had given Sherman in his honor and his sincerity of desire that the war should end. The same had been expressed in an official note of the same date in which Sherman had said in regard to his directions to General Wilson in Georgia: "I have almost exceeded the bounds of prudence in checking him without the means of direct communication, and only did so on my absolute faith in your personal character." [Footnote: _Id._, p. 286.] The faith was not misplaced and was not disappointed.
The correspondence thus quoted reveals to us Sherman's thoughts from day to day, the real opinions and sentiments which he intended to embody in the convention, and his recognition of the probability that its provisions would need more explicit definition before the final acts of negotiation. It shows, too, how frank he was in warning Johnston that the terrible crime at Washington had changed the situation. It seems indisputable that this open-hearted dealing between the generals made it much easier for them to come together on the final terms, by having revealed to Johnston the motives and convictions which animated his opponent in seeking the blessing of peace as well as in applying the scourge of war.
As further evidence of what Sherman told us, his subordinates, of the terms agreed upon, I quote the entry in my diary of what I understood them to be, on the 19th, the day following the signing of the convention, after personal conversation with the general: "Johnston's army is to separate, the troops going to their several States; at the State capitals they are to surrender their arms and all public property. Part of the arms are to be left to the State governments and the rest turned over to the United States. The officers and soldiers are not to be punished by the United States Government for their part in the war, but all are left liable to private prosecutions and indictments in the courts." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. i. p. 938.]
In the evening of the 23d Sherman heard of the arrival at Morehead City of Major Hitchcock, his messenger to Washington, and he at once notified Johnston that the dispatches would reach him in the morning. He asked the latter to be ready "to resume negotiations when the contents of the dispatches are known." [Footnote: _Id_., pt. ii. p. 287.] When Major Hitchcock came up on a night train reaching Raleigh at six in the morning, to Sherman's great surprise
General Grant came also, unheralded and unannounced. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 286.]